Recipe: Fresh Shell Bean and Sage Spread

updated Jan 29, 2020
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(Image credit: Emily Han)

Earlier this week, we shared pictures of fresh shell beans at the farmers’ market. Rattlesnake beans in particular caught our eye with their colorful, twisty pods. We brought some home, shelled them, and were delighted to find purple and brown striped and speckled seeds (above). Given our love of farmers’ market sandwiches, we cooked them into a hearty shell bean and sage spread for toasty bread. You can also use this recipe for other shell beans such Pinto, Cranberry (Borlotti), or Bolita.

(Image credit: Apartment Therapy)

The spread is made by simmering fresh shell beans with herbs, then rounding out the flavor with olive oil and garlic and brightening it with onion and lemon juice. Served warm or at room temperature, it’s delicious (and nutritious!) on whole grain bread that has been toasted, rubbed with garlic, and drizzled with olive oil. It can also be refrigerated for a couple of days and used as a spread for veggie sandwiches.

Note: This recipe can be adapted to use dried beans (they will take longer to cook), but fresh ones seem sweeter and more tender, so we recommend using them when possible. Plus, we think there is something very enjoyable about seeing and handling the beautiful pods and seeds before they are cooked!

Fresh Shell Bean and Sage Spread
Makes about 2 cups

1 pound fresh shell beans (about 2 cups shelled)
1 fresh sage leaf, plus 2 teaspoons chopped fresh sage
1 thyme sprig
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup finely chopped white onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
Lemon juice to taste (about 1/2 a lemon)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Remove beans from pods. Place in a saucepan with sage leaf, thyme sprig, and enough water to cover by about an inch. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer until beans are tender and able to be mashed with a fork, about 40 minutes.

Drain the beans, reserving the cooking water and discarding the herbs.

Return beans to the saucepan or a bowl, add olive oil and 1/4 cup of the cooking water, and coarsely mash with a fork or potato masher. Add chopped sage, onions, and garlic and continue to mash until combined. If necessary, add more cooking water or olive oil to reach desired consistency. Season to taste with lemon juice, salt, and pepper.

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(Images: Emily Ho and Gregory Han)